Guest Posting From Rabbi Dovid Sears - What Did Moshe Rabbeinu See in the 'Erev Rav?
"Lekh reyd, ki shiches 'amkha -- Go down, for your people has acted corruptly!" Hashem commands Moshe Rabbeinu when the 'Erev Rav (Mixed Multitude) perpetrated the sin of the Golden Calf.
The ARI zal sees in Hashem's words a special connection between Moshe Rabbeinu and the 'Erev Rav: they contained some of his "holy sparks," which he knew he had to elevate (see Rabbi Chaim Vital, Likkutei HaSHaS). But what was so special about those "sparks" that Moshe took such an enormous risk at this spiritual high point in our history -- which, if not for the sin of the Golden Calf, would have become the Ge'ulah Sheleimah /Final Redemption?
The Zohar has much to say about the nature of the 'Erev Rav, identifying it with the "zuhamas ha-nachash," the corruption of the Snake in the Garden of Eden, which it transmitted to Chavah (Zohar I, 28b). It also predicts that in the period before the advent of the Moshiach, the souls of the 'Erev Rav will return as false leaders of the Jewish people, to our great misfortune (Zohar I, 25a). (Maybe this is one of the reasons why Rabbi Nachman warns us so adamantly about the danger of false leaders, even in the religious community.) In general, the Zohar attributes most of the troubles of our long and bitter exile to the influence of the souls of the 'Erev Rav in every generation.
So again, we can't help but wonder: why did Moshe Rabbeinu take the risk of bringing them into the fold?
Rav Moshe Cordovero (RaMaK) answers this question in a surprising way. He explains that the Torah was given in seventy languages so that the 'Erev Rav, who spoke these seventy languages, would in turn purify the seventy original nations of the world. Thus, the future prophecy would be fulfilled "And I will convert the nations to a pure speech, by which they shall all call upon the Name of Hashem..." (Zephaniah 3:9). If the Jewish people had been on a high enough level of consciousness, says the RaMaK, the 'Erev Rav would have been transformed from klippah to kedushah, from evil to good, and become the leaders of all humanity in a perfected world. The Jewish people would have attained their lofty destiny in Eretz Yisrael, while the 'Erev Rav would have served as leaders in all of the surrounding lands, and all humanity would have recognized and served Hashem in brotherhood and harmony (Ohr Yakar on Zohar, Vayakhel).
Alas, we were not yet worthy of all this, and the entire spiritual edifice that Moshe Rabbeinu had built came tumbling down like a house of cards. We lost our lofty madreigah and the "crowns" we had received at Mount Sinai, while the souls of the 'Erev Rav remained sunken in tumah, and continued to thwart Klal Yisrael at every turn throughout history.
But Moshe Rabbeinu's hope was not a total loss. The final birur of the 'Erev Rav is taking place in these cataclysmic times, as the evil of the nations speeds toward inevitable destruction, and the good of the nations comes to the aid of the Jewish people, in fulfillment of the prophecy, "Ten men from each language of the nations shall take hold of the corner of the garment of a Jewish man, saying 'Let us go with you, for we have heard that Hashem is with you..." (Zechariah 8:23) (Ohr Yakar, Raya Mehemna, Shaar II, 25:15).
Then we will be zocheh to truly worthy leadership, as it states "And your eyes shall behold your teacher!" (Yeshaya 30:20).
A Simple Jew asks:
In recent times, I have heard people who disagree with the policies and actions of the Israeli government label certain Knesset members as belonging to the Eirev Rav. While according to the reference in the Zohar that you quoted above this may be the case, how are we to know for sure?
In his Mishneh Torah, Issurei Bi'ah 19:17, the Rambam wrote: "When a person always slurs the lineage of others, casting aspersions on the ancestry of families or individuals, claiming that they are mamzerim, we are suspicious that he himself is a mamzer." Similarly, if we cast aspersions and claim that a Knesset member's lineage descends from the Eirev Rav aren't we calling into question our own lineage?
Rabbi Dovid Sears answers:
Just like we can't render halakhic rulings straight out of the Gemara, we also can't figure out kabbalistic mysteries such as which neshamos are from the 'Erev Rav and which aren't straight out of the Zohar. Kabbalistic thinkers in certain anti-Zionist communities might bring numerous statements of the Zohar to support this idea -- but Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish Chassidim generally did not take this approach (nor did Rav Kook and his school of thought, needless to say).
Many authorities feel that most of us today are in the category of "tinuk she-nishba," and that the mumar le-hachis of earlier generations (whom the Zohar explicitly identifies with the 'Erev Rav) was a different breed than the secular Jew of Tel Aviv or Wesport, Conn.
I must admit that I'm inclined to think that Jewish political leaders who actively make war against religious Jews and try to expunge every last vestige of Yiddishkeit in Eretz Yisrael are very likely among those infamous neshamos of the 'Erev Rav.
But then again, I have read that Rav Chaim Sonnenfeld chastised one of his talmidim for saying "yemach shemo" after mentioning the virulently anti-religious Ben Yehudah's name, and that Rav Zvi Yehudah Kook tried to be mekarev Shulamit Aloni!
The bottom line is that it is our first responsibility to eradicate the klippah of the 'Erev Rav and the zuhamas ha-nachash within ourselves, by purging ourselves of arrogance, materialism, coarse sensuality, and disrespect for tzaddikim and Jews who are more religious than we are. Maybe if we ever succeed in draining the existential swamp that covers up the fugitive spark of Divinity within us, we will then be able to recognize "who's who" in the World of Souls!